Man beats odds to come out of the ashes; pain management

FEATURE — The most inspirational and influential people among us often come from the darkest, cruelest places in this world. Places that none of us want to believe exist. Places that cause us to question humanity, and the hope that good will ultimately trump evil. These people rise from the ashes to show us that there is reason to live, and purpose to life. David Rothenberg did just that.

It was 1983, and then 6-year-old David Rothenberg was in a hotel room near Disneyland with his father, Charles Rothenberg. His parents were in the process of a custody dispute and his father had decided that if he couldn’t have David, no one could. Charles Rothenberg kidnapped David and brought him to California. As David slept, his father poured kerosene all over his son’s body, and lit a match.

Dave Dave, fka Rothenberg, was featured on the show “The Doctors” discussing Dave’s journey – Part 1:

By the time the paramedics arrived, David Rothenberg had sustained severe burns over 90 percent of his body and was not expected to live. His mother, Marie Rothenberg, was notified and flew from New York to California, where David Rothenberg was hospitalized. She walked into the room to see her son lying there in bed, covered in bandages from head to toe. His eyes were bulging out of singed skin and his lips were gone.

In an article published in “People Magazine,” Marie Rothenberg wrote, “I had never seen anybody suffering to that extent. I couldn’t imagine a human body being able to repair itself from so critical a condition.”

To take the burned tissue off, the doctors put David Rothenberg in a whirlpool containing a bleach solution and brushed off the irreparable skin. In the beginning they used pigskin and cadaver skin to cover him temporarily by stapling it to him, then when he was ready for the real skin, the doctors surgically removed skin from the few areas on his body not burned and laid it on him in mesh grafts.

Against all odds, David Rothenberg survived, though survival meant that he would continue to have chronic pain throughout his life. David Rothenberg legally changed his name to Dave Dave, to free himself of his father’s name and criminal legacy, and become his own person, leaving behind any familial connection he had to the man who had tried to take his life.

Dave did have a person come into his life that became somewhat of a father figure to him, and that person was Michael Jackson. Hearing of the horrific circumstances surrounding Dave’s accident, Jackson reached out to him and they became lifelong friends. Dave appeared on Larry King Live for an interview on the day of Jackson’s funeral, and talked about their connection and friendship over the years.

Another person of influence in Dave’s life is Dr. Ward Wagner of Dixie Chiropractic. In dealing with the chronic pain that he faces on a day-to-day basis, Dave Dave has tried several methods of relief, and countless clinics and specialists. It wasn’t until he was introduced to Wagner and Calmare Therapy in October 2014 that Dave Dave finally found a reprieve from the pain.

“I thought Dr. Wagner was the best doctor in the world, because he was the only doctor that was able to take away my pain,” Dave said. “And I really love the machine, itself, because it has changed my life.”

Wagner said Calmare is different than other methods of chronic pain relief.

Historically, methods for managing pain involved attempts to suppress what the brain perceives as pain. Most methods have revolved around changing chemistry, such as pain killers or nerve blocks. Their intent is to suppress or inhibit what the system is feeling. However, these methods lose their effectiveness as a long-term fix.

The Calmare system has been miraculous in bringing homeostasis, or normalcy, to areas of abnormal neural feedback. In other words, reprogramming or rebooting normal neural signatures. It doesn’t inhibit neural transmissions from occurring, but helps reprogram the brain to think that things are normal again.

That neural reprogramming is what finally brought Dave some relief.

“My first experience (with Calmare) was a little bit strange, because it was the first time I’d had electrical impulses put into my muscles and the areas of pain,” he said. “I noticed a large difference in terms of positive signals being sent to my nerves, in my back especially, and that’s an area that has been troubling me since I was a child.”

Wagner said the device has helped a myriad of different cases, from the very extreme cases such as Dave, to those that are less traumatic, but still tedious and ongoing.

“What’s amazing is the ability of this machine to fix people,” Wagner said. “This machine works. It changes lives.”

Machines may contain the technology to improve circumstances, but it’s people that hold the real power to change lives. People like Jackson, Wagner, and Dave Dave are perfect examples of such power. With their knowledge, experiences, actions, and words, they inspire hope and bring change. At times, life can burn our hopes to the ground, and leave us scarred. But if we so choose, we can become a light in the darkness and out of ashes, we too can rise.

Dave  on the show “The Doctors” discussing Dave’s journey – Part 2:

Related posts

Terrin Parker
Terrin Parker

Written by Terrin Parker for St. George Health and Wellness magazine and St. George News.

Parker is the associate editor of St. George Health and Wellness magazine and a physical therapist from Cedar City. She graduated from Loma Linda University and has lived in Denver, San Diego and St. George. She loves to surf, snowboard, write, travel, play the guitar and spend time with her husband and their two children.


St. George Health and Wellness website

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!


  • anybody home February 23, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    Nice piece of writing…and a good story…

  • Annie February 23, 2015 at 9:29 pm

    I remember Dave’s amazing story. He is truly a phoenix who has arisen from the ashes. I am happy to hear he is doing so well. The human spirit can achieve just about anything as long as it never gives up.

  • Krissi May 13, 2018 at 11:20 pm

    Dave Dave just found this story. I would love to hear from you again. God bless…what a soul!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.